September 15th: Sequels, prequels, and side alongs
Straight Down the Middle, Part II
, by Ted Conti, Jr

(Sequel to Straight Down the Middle, published February 6th 2011)

“I had always suspected that Mr. Blazer wasn’t entirely human. There was just something off.” I took a drink of water and waited for the follow-up question. It was hour two of my very first congressional hearing. The opening statements had wrapped up and the questions were just beginning. I wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

“Mr. James, can you explain what was ‘off’” He used those finger quotation marks. “about Mr. Blazer. I’m sorry, the alien.” The pompous congressman from South Carolina had the first crack at me this morning.

“I guess it was something from the first time I met him.” I took another drink of water and made the congressman work for it.

“And when was that Mr. James?” He was annoyed at my lack of details and it was showing in his voice. “Please elaborate.”

I leaned over to my attorney and placed my hand over the microphone. Just like I had seen others before me do. My attorney blocked the view of our mouths.

“I’m going to get a lunch break, right?” I could see my counselor slightly smirk. “I’d like the chicken salad.”

“Yes Tim. Now answer the man’s questions and stop stalling.”

He moved away and left me hanging. I took another two seconds, turned my head to look at my interrogator, smiled and returned to my upright position.

“I met Mr. Blazer at the Forrest Glenn Golf Club outside of Boulder.”  I took another drink of water and a deep breath. I set my feet and told my story.

“My company’s design and engineering offices are in Boulder. Every Thursday I play golf with members of the senior staff and their key people. On the day I met Chevy I was joined by Brian Cox, my Chief Aeronautical Engineer, Steve West a Software design lead and Rebecca Dings, a member of Brian’s design team. Steve was called away at the last minute on a family emergency and Chevy joined us.”

Before I could continue I was interrupted. “What was the emergency?”

“His wife went into early labor.”


“Everything was ok. If you were at all concerned.” I gave him a stare and let the moment to respond.  He missed the opportunity to look human.

“The pro at the club is an old college golf teammate and he had just finished a lesson with Chevy. Cliff thought it would be a good idea for Chevy to play with us. So we welcomed him aboard.”

“Who is Cliff?”

“Cliff Hendricks, the head pro at Forrest Glenn. We played together at CU.” I hated throwing my friends under the bus.

“What were your initial impressions of the alien?”

“I though him a little stiff. Almost unnatural in his movements. Very mechanical and disciplined in his movements. Almost like he was following a manual on how to play golf. He claimed he was new at it, but he crushed his first drive and birdied and eagled the first two holes with ease. He wasn’t a natural like you see with young kids that pick up the game. He was deliberate and focused. He seemed to tone it down on the next two holes. I was afraid he thought he was showing us up. Brain even joked with him he should quit his day job and join the tour. Chevy didn’t seem to know what he was talking about.”

“At what point did the alien seem off to you Mr. James?”  He used the finger quotes.

“The first time was on the fifth hole. He hit into a bunker. I don’t think he ever had done that before and it was a bit baffling to him.  At first he was going to take the ball out. Rebecca gently but firmly educated him on the rules. She is a stickler for rules. His ball had a difficult lie and I was going to offer him some help but before I could get to him he had planted his feet, so I let him do his thing. His back swing was very slow and he stopped at the top for an extra second before coming down super fast. I haven’t a clue were the ball ended up, I didn’t see it. I was busy watching Chevy try not fall and come out of himself.” I paused because I knew the congressman would want to give his two cents worth.

“What do you mean by ‘come out of himself’ Mr. James?”

“It’s hard to explain. His momentum pushed him forward then the follow through nearly put him on his back. He moved so quick that he caught up to himself and popped out of the bunker. At the time I could have sworn I saw something come out of body to keep him from falling, and then when he jumped, it was like he had forgotten how much gravity we had. We stood there in silence and just stared.” It was actually very funny.

“And what did the alien do?”

“Acted like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Brian, Rebecca and I just looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and continued play.” I actually thought Rebecca was going to scream.

“How was the rest of your round?”

“Great fun actually. Chevy relaxed at last , all four of us chatted throughout the rest of the day. On the back nine he even joined in the friendly wagering we have per hole. I think he even bought beers at the turn.”

“As we talked, both on the golf course and then again during dinner he just seemed to show us he knew more and more about what it was we were doing and also shared our love for space travel. After dinner, when Brian and I were driving back to the office we agreed that Chevy was more than just a regular guy and even talked about how we might get together with him again.”

“When was the next time you talked to or saw the alien?”

“Congressman, you use the term alien like it is something dirty. I didn’t know he wasn’t human until much later. I just thought I had met a man, that while an excellent mechanical golfer and maybe physically mechanical, shared a passion with me. I connected with him that day in the same way I connected with many of the same people I had hired to help my company get man back into space. He had a passion for space travel, and I knew I didn’t want to lose him.”

“When was the next time you saw or talked to the alien?” Well apparently I didn’t make an impression with the sourpuss from South Carolina.

“The next day. Around ten, I received a package by courier that the young man insisted he deliver personally to me. It was a book by Gene Kranz, the flight director for the Apollo space program. It was a signed edition.” I always get a bit emotional when I think about this. I took a moment, but the Congressman jumped in before I could continue.

“How did you know it was from the alien.”

“Chevy had written a note to me on the inside of the cover.”

“And what did the note say Mr. James?”

“It said.” I always have to take a moment when I tell this part of the story. “Let us just start at the moon.’”

“And what did you take that to mean?”

“At the time I didn’t know. I sat down and read the book. About twenty pages in I asked my assistant to order copies of the book for every employee to be delivered the following Monday and to make arrangements for an all company meeting. I finished the book that afternoon. I gave it to Brian and asked him to drop everything and read it. On Monday I gave copies to everyone in our company and asked them to read it and to help us.”

“When was the next time you saw the alien?”

“It was a couple of weeks. Although I later found out that Chevy and Brian had exchanged e-mails for a day or two before he and I reconnected. I saw Chevy on the Pearl Street Mall. I was returning to my personal office after a meeting with the City of Boulder. He was sitting on a bench. He had used Brian to find out where I would be. We sat and talked for several hours. I called Brian and we talked at my office.  Other members of the senior staff joined us for dinner. By the end of the day our group had begun to re-imagine Big Sky Rocket Company and we decided we were going to return man to the moon.”

“You thought your company was going to be able to do this by yourself?” He really was a smug bastard, even for a politician.

“It wasn’t just me. It was everyone in our company. Chevy became our evangelist, he was our cheerleader and he had us all believing we could put a man on the moon.”

“You hired an alien to lead this effort.”

“No Congressman Dorsey.” I was getting pissed. “I hired a man that share my passion for space travel and believed that mankind should be traveling the stars.  Besides, he wouldn’t take a salary. He was happy to be in the game. He did let me pay for golf.”

“How did you fund your efforts?”

“Mr. Dorsey, everyone in this room and watching this charade on TV knows I can buy a couple of rockets. I have the resources to help get man get off this rock.”

“Did anyone else help in funding your project Mr. Dorsey?”

“Tens of millions of people from around the world invested anywhere from $100 to $100,000. Knowing this was an investment in mankind, and they would likely not see a return on their money for a very long time. This was never about profiting, it was about putting forth an effort that would make us better as a people.” I took a moment to collect myself. I was starting to get on my soapbox, something that I promised I wouldn’t do here today. “And my friend Chevy Blazer was the backbone of this effort.”

I took a drink and gave him an opening. He bit.

“What did the alien do for your company Mr. James?”

“Chevy Blazer was our captain. He helped me and our senior staff define our vision as we started. He led our company emotionally. While I was the voice of Big Sky Rocket Company to the world, he was our internal champion. Then he joined us as we designed our systems and helped us build our launch and exploration vehicles. He became an integral part of our company.”

“Let’s talk more about the alien and his work with your company.”

This time I interrupted him. “OK, let’s do that.” I was letting my attitude show through, but I knew where this was going.

“What financial assistance did the alien provide to Big Sky Rocket Company?”

“Chevy purchased shares just like everyone else.”

“How many shares did he purchase?”

“I don’t know the exact number. But outside of me, he was the largest single stock holder of Big Sky.”

“Do you know where he got the money to buy those shares?”

“I do not. I don’t go meddling into other people’s affairs.”

“Did you ever ask him what he did for a living?”

“I did.”

“And what did he tell you?”

“He told me he helped people build their dreams.”

“That seems like an odd answer from a man that you would put in charge of your company.”

“I would disagree and the results prove it. Or at lest did until you started this witch hunt.”

He ignored the bait.

“Did he provide you with other capital?”

“Only a tremendous amount of intellectual capital.”

“Explain what you mean please Mr. James.”

“He helped us design and build our rockets.” I think from this point on I will keep my answers simple and direct. I don’t like where this is going.

“What specifically did he do?”

“He helped us find the right path to go down. At times when we would be going the wrong direction or be stuck he would nudge us the right way.”

He didn’t jump right back into his next question. An aide got his attention then handed him a piece of paper then he turned his attention back to me.

“Can you give us a few more details please? What specific path did he help you find.”

“When we were in the initial design phase of Armstrong crew module. We knew the Space Shuttle model was not cost and resource effective. We also didn’t want to go back to the capsule model because it just clunky. We worked through several different designs and even built a couple of mock-ups. Eventually we came up with the two-stage lift we use now. Chevy guided the discussion and made us understand the value in the two stage system.”

“Why didn’t he just show you that at first?”

“Because you don’t learn if you are just given the answers. This is a time consuming and slow process. Every mistake is a learning opportunity one step closer to the right answer. Without Chevy it would have taken us a lot longer to get to the right answers. He let us make plenty of mistakes.”

“He also cost us American lives didn’t he Mr. James?”

“No, those were lost as part of the learning process.” I took a drink of water. “Space exploration is really hard and despite all the safety precautions people still lose their lives. If you want, you can put those deaths on my hands. But those five women and men did not lose their lives in vein. We have learned from their deaths and continue to move forward to ensure that their sacrifice are not lost because someone was scared to do bigger things.”

“Your learning process resulted in American lives being lost, didn’t it?”

“Congressman, I am not going to get into a shouting match about this. The reality of this inquisition is that you don’t care about the five people that died on the Equinox three months ago any more than you care about the thousands of children that die in America from malnutrition every year. You also don’t seem to care about the men and women that have died serving our country in the Middle East since 2002.”

I let it sit a bit. I was hoping he took the bait.

“Mr. James. I would remind you this hearing is about you and how you and your company conspired with a non-human to compromise the security of the United States of America.”

He took it. Swallowed it whole. I took a drink of water and sat there looking at the panel in front of me. I turned and looked at the people watching in the gallery. I turned back to the congressional hearing nad the sourpuss from South Carolina.

“Mr. Dorsey I’d like to remind you how small and insignificant you and I are in the grand scheme of things. Oh’ sure, you’ve got power because 45,000 residents in the 12th congressional district of your fine state of South Carolina don’t have another choice. Your friends in the ginormous multi-national conglomerates pay for your TV adds, campaign buttons, re-election, mansion in Virginia and chauffeur. But it doesn’t matter because beyond these doors mankind is ready to do better. And you know what, the universe is ready to help. There is more than just Chevy here on Earth. He was just the first one to make direct contact and his is just one of hundreds of races in the universe that are ready to welcome in mankind.”

I decided to stand up from my chair and walked around to the front of and sat on the table. I took the microphone from the small stand. This was my more natural position. I don’t like to put something between me and my audience.

“Chevy Blazer, or as he is called at home Kothar, came to Earth to find partners. Partners that are willing to join in the excitement of exploration and peace. He came here to find people that aren’t afraid to take chances and are willing to truly invest in the long-term success of a project. It’s not about earning a buck in six-months, or six years. This is about a pay-off for the next generation.”

“Mr. Dorsey, your time is up.” It was the committee chairman.

“Mr. Chairman, I have one more question for Mr. James if he is off his soap box.”

“Mr. Dorsey, you have succeeded in making the soapbox my new permanent home. But go ahead.” I also wasn’t leaving my seat on the table.

“Where is the alien and Mr. Cox?”

“You mean what happened after they escaped from your confines?” I let that sit.

“Mr. James, that is a matter of national security and I would…”

“Whatever, Mr. Dorsey.” I interrupted him this time. “I can tell you that Mr. Cox is long gone and should be arriving on Kothar’s home world in the next month. As for Kothar, I will ask you the same question.”

I pulled out of my pocket a holographic projector, a gift from my good friend. I turned it on and in the air, clear as day and twenty-feet tall, in three dimensional glory was the good congressman, standing next to another man and on the bookend two very scantily clad and buxom young women. The congressman noticeably intoxicated held his pose as the man next to him stepped back to watch the women hug and caress the South Carolina Gentleman. In the back ground the man’s head unfolded into my friend Kothar. Six large multi-segmented arms suddenly flapped wildly for two seconds then disappeared. The man returned to normal and stepped back up. Neither the congressman nor the two women saw the photo bomb. The chamber was quite as a church.

“Where is Chevy Blazer Congressman Dorsey? You just saw him yesterday. The two of you were playing eighteen at Congressional.”


Ted Conti, Jr. continues to reside from 8 to 4 Monday through Friday in the insurance industry. He has a new job and is helping people better understand the claims process. He just hopes someone can explain it to him someday. In between phone calls, e-mails, and preparing spreadsheets and reports, Ted’s mind wanders out into the cosmos looking for stories to tell. He tells those stories with the help of a nifty laptop, a copy of Scrivener, lots of Rush, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Tool, Porcupine Tree and other loud music. He knows though, that he is nothing with his family, dogs, cats, and beer fridge.


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